Peering from the outside in: viscoelastic properties of the extracellular matrix dictate spatial organization and apoptosis resistance in mammary epithelial cells
The compliance of the extracellular matrix (ECM) differs between tissues and is altered in tumors. We examined the consequence of modifying the viscoelastic properties of the ECM on mammary epithelial cell (MEC) morphogenesis and apoptosis regulation. Results showed that the elastic modulus of the ECM exerts a profound effect on MEC tissue organization and gene expression that correlates with changes in actin organization and apoptosis resistance. Altering the rigidity of the ECM directly influences integrin expression and additionally modifies integrin-induced gene expression in association with actin reorganization. These data suggest that the compliance of the ECM may cooperatively regulate cell behavior by altering integrin function. Studies are now underway to investigate the possibility that these effects are mediated via changes in integrin-actin cytoskeletal dynamics.